“All men dream: but not equally.” T. E. Lawrence

I was reading the other day about Englishmen on secret missions in Afghanistan, and to my surprise, T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) may have been there in the late 1920s, possibly working behind the scenes to bring down King Amanullah. Where did I find this intriguing bit of history? In a blog called Untold Lives, which is part of the British Library, one of the most extraordinary research facilities in the world, where you can often find my friend, and this week’s featured author, William Kuhn.

In the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence wrote:

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”

For some reason I found this passage particularly resonant, and it put me in mind of another of the characters in Bill’s novel, a young man, Mustafa, who speaks several languages, whose family ties stretch from London to Afghanistan, sent on a mission where he befriends Prince Harry.

Mustafa is grappling with history. His parents’ mainstream lifestyle in London — which saw him educated at Sandhurst and Oxford — was financed by the poppy fields of Afghanistan. He is an officer with a secret brief, in the service of the Queen, in a situation leaving him wondering if he’ll ever truly be accepted as British. Further, he is required to dream by day, to extricate himself and the people he comes to care for, from an extremely dangerous situation.

I love stories that are rich in characterization. Where each actor in the narrative is profoundly layered. It seems to me that it’s rare these days to come across such a novel, what do you think?

Shall we discuss?

16 comments

  1. Glad you gave a mention to T.E. Lawrence. “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” is one of the most unusual and fulfilling books I’ve ever read. I read it after a critic called it one of the best books ever written. Lawrence was a unique and fascinating man, on or off the desert. Thanks.

    • I started reading “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” online, and became so engrossed I ordered a copy I can hold in my hands and savor…screens don’t settle in my mind the way the printed page does.

  2. George Kaplan

    One could never accuse Lawrence of hiding his light under a bushel except he was homosexual at a time when being gay was illegal and demonized (not that it isn’t in parts of this world today) so his bold self-mythologizing was combined with a need for some things to remain hidden. His story and the events with which he was intimately involved was fascinating and complex. Alas, moral and racial blindspots and prejudices led to many disasters.
    Many of the best fictional and not characters do not fit easily into the world. It sounds as if some are to be found in Mr Kuhn’s novel.

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